In the summer of 2014, as antisemitism in Britain reached a new peak during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Hussain Yousef walked through central London holding aloft a sign stating: “Hitler, you were right!” This act was one of the catalysts behind the formation of Campaign Against Antisemitism. We were disgusted that such an individual could brazenly walk through the streets of London with such a sign, in full sight of police officers, without any consequences. Mr Yousef is one of the many cases that convinced so many of us to come together to build a campaign for zero tolerance enforcement of the law against antisemites was necessary.
For three years, Mr Yousef’s identity was unknown to us, but this week he has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years for terrorism offences, however he did not face any charges on account of his antisemitic hate crime, and now it seems that he never will.
We believe that Mr Yousef’s case is a stark reminder of the danger to society of failing to enforce the law against antisemites.
Kingston Crown Court has confirmed to us that Mr Yousef was convicted of collecting or making a record of terrorist information contrary to section 58(1 )(a) of the Terrorism Act 2000, encouraging terrorism contrary to section 1(2) of the Terrorism Act 2006, and dissemination of a terrorist publication contrary to sections 2(1) and 2(2)(d) of the Terrorism Act 2006. He was found not guilty of two other terrorism offences. The judge also recommended that Mr Yousef should be deported from the United Kingdom upon completion of his sentence.
We welcome this sentence, but Mr Yousef should have come to the attention of the criminal justice system before now. He should have been arrested and investigated in the summer of 2014 when he walked through central London openly declaring his support for the Holocaust, and by inference, demanding that the Jews of Israel too should be systematically annihilated.
Instead, we learned from his trial that it was not until the end of 2015, nearly a year-and-a-half later, that Mr Yousef was investigated by counter-terrorism police over his social media support for Islamist terrorism. Mr Yousef, a 21-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, whose asylum application had been denied, had created multiple Facebook accounts which he used, for example, to call a British Muslim soldier a “Murtad”, meaning an apostate, and he had even shared the purportedly hacked names and addresses of 700 United States military personnel.
Commander Dean Haydon, from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter Terrorism Command, confirmed that only terrorism offences were considered, saying: “Yousef was sharing content, images and videos of the terrorist activities of [ISIS] through his various Facebook accounts and trying to get others to support their evil and hateful ideology. This case was brought to our attention thanks to members of the public reporting it to us and I continue to urge anyone who see terrorist or extremist material online to act and report it via the online reporting tool.”
In July 2015, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave a speech identifying that antisemitic conspiracy theories act as a gateway to Islamist extremism and even terrorism. He was right of course, and the case of Mr Yousef is yet further proof of that. It also illustrates very clearly that when antisemitic hate crime goes ignored, not just British Jews but all of British society is put at risk.